The Mercado de Abastos, or the market here in Santiago de Compostela, began in 1874 with people setting up shops in pavilions made of iron and glass to trade their local Galician products in the town centre. This market has been remodelled many times during its existence, but the last remodel in 1945, transformed the market into how it appears in present day. More recently, it has been touched up in 2014.
The market which sells a variety of products as vegetables, fruits, meats, fishes and many other local products is the second most visited place in Santiago de Compostela, following the Cathedral at the end of the Camino de Santiago. We took some time to talk to our favourite stall owner to get a little insight into the market and her history with this quaint praza, or plaza, here in the heart of Galicia.
Dora is the owner of her shop called Lolita Cardelle, which is actually the name of her mother. Both her mother and her grandfather traded at this very market; dating back well over 80 years of trading for this local family. Her grandfather was one of the first men in Santiago to begin selling at the Mercado de Abastos.
The market in Santiago has not changed over the years and this is evidenced in the fresh meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and fruit you can buy on a daily basis that is brought in by the local farmers themselves. This enables consumers to purchase products not able to be bought in general grocery stores, such as the home made chorizo Dora makes from her own pigs with the recipe her grandfather followed almost a century ago.
The government recently revealed plans to bring in a strip of restaurants making the market resemble as those in Madrid, like the San Miguel Market, whereas the stalls are focused on bringing in tourists to shop and have a meal. It seems most shop owners were pleased to hear this planning is not to be taken forward in Santiago; this is largely due to their desire to protect the authenticity of the market and the local Galician products.
One of our reasons to come to Dora’s stall is she offers taste tasting of her wide variety of cheeses. A few of her inimitable cheeses to taste are the Brexo Cucado which is a six month cured cheese from Galicia where the cows are only fed collard greens; and the Touzavella, an organic goat’s cheese that is produced in four varieties: one with local wine; one is spiced with pimentos; one is cured; and the last is a soft and creamy cheese resembling Brie.
In terms of walking the Camino, Dora told us if she were to walk the Way of St James’, she would pack her favourite cheese, Queixo Caseiro. She explained if she had that cheese on the Camino she would be “walking on air” as the taste is heavenly. (Hmmm… Have we just discovered a prevention to walking with blisters?)
Luckily, Dora is able to vacuum pack any product at her shop to fly back home with you. All you need to do is leave enough weight allowance to pack a few of those in your bag!
Make sure you ask your Andaspain guide about visiting the Mercado de Abastos at the end of your Camino. This tour can include a guided tour of the Mercado de Abastos, cheese tasting with Dora, and a seafood lunch bought from the local fish mongers served at the market and in the heart of this old town.